Gabriela Szymanowska

Growing up in Knoxville, I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve been up to the Great Smoky Mountains. I have some of the happiest memories from spending time with family exploring Cades Cove, learning to ski in Ober Gatlinburg and hiking with friends along the trails.

Those memories and the love I have for the Smokies is what connects me to many others who share that special connection with the mountains.

It’s also why in 2016, so many of us felt heartbroken upon hearing about the fires.

Three years ago, on Nov. 26, 2016, smoke filled the sky, fires burned an inferno in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the lives of an entire community changed.

The Chimney Top 2 wildfires spread across 17,000 acres of land, destroying 2,500 buildings, injuring countless people and taking the lives of 14.

While the community may still be mourning the tragedy, the City of Gatlinburg and surrounding areas are rebuilding out of the ashes.

As this is the last print issue of 2019, we wanted to make it a special one as it happens to align with the third anniversary of the Gatlinburg fires. Whether you’ve lived in East Tennessee your whole life, came just for college or to visit the area, the Great Smoky Mountains hold a special place in a lot of peoples’ hearts.

That’s why we believe it is important to dedicate an entire issue to remembering the tragedy, but also focusing on the rebuilding efforts of the community. In the last three years, members of the Gatlinburg community have rebuilt homes, re-opened amusement areas and continued to make the Smokies a great travel destination.

Skylift Park opened the longest suspension bridge with a plexiglass bottom to view the destruction of the fire. Hillbilly Golf incorporated the damage done by the fire right into its course. New fire protocols and emergency plans have been thought of in Sevier County to prevent future tragedies.

These are just some of the stories that we have covered within this special issue. Looking at the hard work the Daily Beacon staff has put into this issue, I am thankful for this staff who pays attention to issues the community cares about.

While the rebuilding efforts are still an uphill challenge, I am thankful to see the regrowth of the Smokies and see the community come out of the ashes

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